INFLATING YM?: Last Friday, WWD ran a story about the possibility that Maxim’s Blender was inflating its newsstand numbers. Blender, through 2002, wasn’t a member of the Audit Bureau of Circulations, but even being in the ABC isn’t always a big enough deterrent to keep publishers from exaggerating their newsstand sales averages. Just ask YM.
This story first appeared in the January 14, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
In 2001, YM, then edited by Annemarie Iverson, reported newsstand sales for its first six months were at 594,000. But the 2001 audit report released in December shows that publisher Laura McEwan was being more than a little bullish in her forecast of the numbers. According to the audit report, YM’s actual first-half newsstand average was 377,335 copies, which means that McEwan’s team overreported its newsstand average by 57 percent, or a difference of almost 220,000 copies per issue. In addition, over the course of the year, the magazine missed its rate base on six of its 10 issues, despite having reported in its two publisher’s statements that it was above rate base on all but one issue.
The numbers apparently even fooled YM’s competitors. Partially as a result of YM’s newsstand sales, ad pages shot up and Iverson was poached by Seventeen to be that magazine’s editor in chief, a position she was fired from last September after the category began to deflate and her staff began a mass exodus.
Magazines in the ABC are also able to get away with inflating newsstand sales in certain instances because it does not penalize titles for overestimating them if subscriptions are underreported — even if advertisers rely on newsstand sales more heavily as a barometer of a magazine’s success. Publishers also bank on the fact that there is a one-year lapse between the release of the publisher’s statement and the audit report, by which point many advertisers have simply forgotten what the numbers were in the first place.
Reached for comment Monday, McEwan acknowledged that there’d been “a problem” at YM, but claimed it was taken care of. “The second half [of 2001] does not have that kind of variance and there were some very serious staffing issues and reporting issues that occurred during that time frame [the first half] and they were taken care of. There were staff replacements made and thereby, for the second half of 2001, those discrepancies did not exist. We took the matter extremely seriously.”
But several sources in the industry — among them former employees of the magazine and key advertisers — contend that overstatement is par for the course at YM. McEwan, they claimed, has frequently given away ads to choice advertisers to help drum up heat with the trades (YM has consistently made the Adweek hotlist, thanks to a 30 percent ad page gain in 2002 that flew in the face of the entire sector). And its current editor, Christina Kelly, told WWD in March that she was bucking the industry’s downward newsstand trend only for YM to report on its publisher’s statement in August that it took the biggest nosedive in the category — 26 percent.
— Jacob Bernstein
WALLACE HAS LEFT THE T&L BUILDING: The number of former editors in chief grazing in Time Inc.’s development unit decreased by one over the holidays. Carol Wallace, the retired managing editor of People, escaped to her home in Scotland just before Christmas after finally serving out the remainder of her contract. Before her departure, which a Time Inc. spokesman said “was always expected,” Wallace had been playing out the string, developing yet another celebrity-driven, photo-filled weekly magazine.
She’d initially retired to rural Scotland to run her own spa after stepping down from People in February. But Time Inc. invoked her contractual bond through the end of 2002 and had her shuttle between the U.K. and New York, bringing back ideas from the company’s IPC Media subsidiary on how to launch new magazines. (The editorial director of IPC’s women magazine group, Isobel McKenzie-Price, made the reverse commute last spring while exploring the idea of bringing IPC’s Homes & Gardens to the U.S.)
Time Inc.’s spokesman declined to name the new leader of Wallace’s former team.
— Greg Lindsay